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#PRRant: Propaganda as PR
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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It has been a most interesting week for us flacks. There are a lot of happenings in the general news that one can look at from a PR viewpoint these days. I'd like to briefly examine two that seem to really stand out from all the stories in recent days, so please bear with me. (Note: The opinions expressed herein are solely my own, and not those of any of Talent Zoo Media's component sites.)

The 2014 Winter Games
First, of course, was the coverage given this past Friday to the official opening of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. I do not know if anyone noticed, but the opening show put on by Russia, the host country, was both PR and propaganda at the same time. While it was truly an impressive show from many angles, the entire presentation was a massive public relations operation designed by the Russian Federation to leave a positive impact of its history and culture on all the visiting athletes, the visiting press, and all who watched by television.

When business organizations use PR, it can be seen as a means to advance its mission, its products, and even its overall reputation in the business community and in social media. However, when a government uses public relations, it is often (or could be) seen as propaganda.

After watching the opening ceremonies of the Winters Games this past Friday evening, I realized I was watching a masterful exhibit of propaganda.

The “Spin” Around Obamacare
The news coming out of Washington these days regarding Obamacare could almost be taken as propaganda from an Administration desperate to show that Mr. Obama's signature piece of legislation is actually working. One of the recent Review and Outlook articles in the WSJ Online somewhat tartly noted, the Affordable Care Act “increasingly means whatever President Obama says it does on any given day. His latest lawless rewrite arrived on Monday as the White House decided to delay the law's employer mandate for another year and in some cases maybe forever.”

Continuing on, the column commented, “Like the individual mandate, the employer decree is central to Obamacare's claim of universal coverage, but employers said the new labor costs—and the onerous reporting and tax-enforcement rules—would damage job creation and the economy. Liberals insisted that such arguments were false if not beneath contempt, but then all of a sudden the White House implicitly endorsed the other side. Now the new delay arrives amid a furious debate about jobs after a damning Congressional Budget Office report last week, only this time with liberals celebrating Obamacare's supposed benefits to the job market. Well, which is it? Either Obamacare is ushering in a worker's paradise, in which case by the White House's own logic exempting businesses from its ministrations is harming employees. Or else the mandate really is leading business to cut back on hiring, hours and shifting workers to part-time as the evidence in the real economy suggests.” The column concluded with, “Liberals say the law isn't harming jobs or economic growth, but everything this White House does screams the opposite.”

This flack would love to see the White House explain this one without resorting to propaganda. Sgt. Frank Friday was famous for saying on the classic TV show Dragnet, “Just the facts, sir.” Just give us the straight facts, Mr. President: no spin, no fluff. Is Obamacare working or is it not?

A Question for Fellow Flacks
Finally, this flack would like to hear from his colleagues with other examples of propaganda posing as PR. Any takers?


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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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